Meet Yun Cho! Yun is currently a TPM at Airbnb, supporting Payments teams. Her journey into tech and towards the TPM role has been unconventional and hasn’t been a straight path — she graduated with an accounting degree and worked in government contracting and at a patent law firm in Washington D.C. before moving to the Bay Area.
Her first venture into tech was at Airbnb back in 2011 when the company was just a startup. Since then, Yun has taken on a variety of roles within various teams such as Trust and Safety, Finance & Accounting, and finally landing as a TPM. Outside of work, you can find her hosting KBBQ dinner parties, trying to keep her new plant babies alive, and finding the most perfect Airbnb for her next trip!
Hi Yun, tell us about yourself!
I am currently a TPM at Airbnb supporting the Payments Engineering team and most recently celebrated my 10th work anniversary (or “airversary”)! It’s been a priceless experience to witness and be a part of firsthand a company’s growth from startup to post-IPO.
I’ve been in the TPM role for over 3 years now. Before that, I was part of the Finance team as a revenue analyst, executing month-end close procedures, financial audits, and contributing to projects that improved data integrity. Prior to that, I led projects to build the foundation to scale the Trust and Safety team globally.
What led you to the TPM role?
My career in sum has transformed and molded by my curiosity into different parts of the business, seeking out solving complex challenges, and prioritizing building working relationships and connections throughout the company. All key in leading me towards pursuing a career path as a TPM.
One of the questions I often get is how I could navigate through 3 seemingly different departments with their own distinct goals, subject matter expertise, and operating system. 100% not alone. I definitely put in my share of the work, but it’s the people who saw that my value and capability were transferrable and impactful to their organization and took a chance on me. As the company has grown throughout the years, my scope and career have grown alongside it. I attribute all of that to my mentors, teammates, friends, and sponsors of internal mobility.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
How did you make the pivot from the Finance team as a revenue analyst to TPM?
As a revenue analyst, I understood from a data perspective how data flowed through the system into various tables that were later sliced and diced into usable reports to my stakeholders on the Finance & Accounting team. We closely partnered with the Payments engineering teams, and at the time, they were just starting a new program called an “SOA migration.” I was tasked with assessing the business impact by identifying the changes.
I partnered with Product and Payments engineering teams on the program to better understand, and the more I asked questions, the more I wanted to learn more about the engineering and orchestration of it all that happened more upstream from me. I pitched the idea to my manager to let me split my time 80/20 to work on the program for a quarter to gain exposure and experience in a PM capacity, and he agreed!
I quickly learned that engineering could mobilize with lighting speed towards design and implementation with a plan and strategy in place. Working with cross-functional partners acting as one team to see a plan come alive was incredible. That’s when I knew I wanted to make the leap to technical program management.
Soon, the quarter ended, and I went back to my old role but kept in touch with the folks I worked with on the program. I’m glad I did because an opportunity for a new TPM role opened up a few months later, and I seized it!
Fast forward to now, you can read about our progress in our latest blog post: Rebuilding Payment Orchestration at Airbnb.
How would you characterize career development and what this means to you?
I would characterize career development as a journey with twists and turns along the way that’s distinctive to you.
To me, it means checking in from time to time to ask yourself — Am I challenging myself? What skills could I improve on? Am I close to achieving my goals? Are these the right goals I set for myself? I’m curious about xyz and want to learn more. What opportunities are there for me to get that knowledge? Do I have the right network and relationships to get me there?
What is also meaningful to me is taking the time to give back all I’ve learned and experienced back to my community, whether it’s back to the TPM community, my Linkedin network, or within the company, so that others on their career journey can benefit.
What were the biggest challenges you’ve faced throughout your career?
Getting an interview for a job in tech after moving to a new city and having no previous experience or a network within tech was the biggest challenge of my career. Not to mention the economy was barely recovering from the 2009 economic recession. On any given block in San Francisco, I can point out a company that I had applied to at the time. It was a tough challenge but my most valuable experience.
What is your favorite part of being a TPM?
My favorite part of being a TPM is the same reason that kept me going strong at Airbnb after 10+ years: the people!
I find myself very fortunate to work, laugh, and share moments with the Airbnbers that I’ve had the chance to cross paths with past and present. Everyone is brilliant, driven, talented, genuine, kind, and relentless in pursuing the mission. Programs have twists and turns on every part of the roadmap and timeline, but it’s the people who surround me that inspire me every day.
And we’re growing! Come work with us :) If you’re interested, check out this open role: Senior Technical Program Manager, Guest and Host Technology or browse through opportunities on our jobs page. Connect with me on LinkedIn, I’m always happy to answer questions or to chat about my experience at Airbnb.
What is the most memorable program / project that you have driven as a TPM?
My most memorable program that I’ve driven as a TPM would have to be the first one that I took on after pivoting from a revenue analyst to TPM — the migration of Airbnb’s payment orchestration system from the legacy monolithic application to a service-oriented architecture (SOA for short).
What made it memorable was the camaraderie and thoughtfulness between all the teams and stakeholders who made it happen. Every person contributing to the program was bought in to the vision, worked incredibly hard, and celebrated each other at every milestone.
How would you characterize your TPM or leadership style?
Highly adaptable. Every project and program is different with different people, and the needs evolve over time, sometimes even weekly. Being versatile and flexible has helped me collaborate more effectively with cross-functional partners from all different backgrounds and departments, identify when to course-correct when the program is off-course, and develop creativity in devising solutions for the business.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone who is considering becoming a TPM, or your former self?
The advice I always give is to learn how to best approach your way of leading without authority and quickly build connections across every part of the organization.